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Five top riders means that one squad stands out as favourite for the Olympic road race. Cyclingnews'...
Five top riders means that one squad stands out as favourite for the Olympic road race. Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes looks at the powerful Spanish men's road race team, where Alejandro Valverde will likely be the go-to man for the medals.
Undoubtedly one of the strongest teams – arguably the strongest – in next Saturday's Olympic road race will be that of Spain. Tour de France winners Carlos Sastre and Alberto Contador will be there, and will be joined by triple world champion Oscar Freire, Samuel Sanchez and Alejandro Valverde.
All are proven winners and have – with the exception of Sanchez – shown world-beating form this season. Sastre won the Alpe d'Huez stage of the Tour de France and went on to land the overall title. Contador and his Astana team were prevented from riding the race, but the Spaniard has nonetheless racked up several important wins; he took the Giro d'Italia in June, and also triumphed in the Vuelta a Castilla y León and the Vuelta a País Vasco. He took two stage victories in both.
Freire took his sole victory on stage 14 of the Tour de France and won the green jersey classification. Earlier successes this year include two stages and the points competition in Tirreno Adriatico, the Gent-Wevelgem Classic and stage one of the Tour de Suisse. And while Sanchez hasn't hit the same level of form yet, he took a solid seventh overall in the Tour.
Of those on the team, a strong argument can be made for Valverde having the best chance of success. He's an explosive climber, a good tactician and a strong sprinter. As his victories in this year's Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the recent Clásica San Sebastián showed, he has the characteristics necessary to win on tougher courses.
Read the full Valverde feature.